S: Magical Morocco
BC: What an AMAZING AND UNFORGETTABLE trip! Shokran! * Merci Beaucoup! * Thank You! We will return Inshallah!
FC: Magical Morocco | Marhaban
1: Royal Air Moroc JFK to Casablanca. 5:45pm flight, landed 6:30am local time. Our driver, the fabulous Abdullah, met us and he showed Kathi how to get in to the arrivals area so she could see lovely Emily before she even retrieved her luggage!!!! Mama and daughter so delighted and happy to see each other. In our own private van we drive to Fez with many stops along the way. The Holy City of Moulay Idriss where the profit is buried. Passed on to Meknes where we saw the Shrine Mosque and the tomb of Moulay Ismail, the Dar Jami Palace and the Royal Stables. On to Rabat (capital of Morocco), one of the four Imperial Cities, which includes Meknes, Fez and Marrakech. The present King, Mohammad VI has his official residence (palace) in Rabat, though he has palaces in every city we visited. Our first site: Mohammed V’s mausoleum and the Hassan Tower. | Emilly est arrive! | Stables pool and grainery | Salam aleichem! | Rabat
2: Had our first Moroccan meal along the way .. tangine for everyone!!!! And our first taste of the delicious mint tea that was served to us throughout our trip. Our waiter fancied himself an Eddie Murphy look-alike. In Rabat Abdullah located the PC office and we used the WC and Emily spoke with a few people and declared it a paradise compared to the PC office in Benin. Off to Fez We checked into the beautiful Palals Jamais Fez hotel and had rooms next to each other. The elevator was incredible; a piece of art! A very long, exciting, exhausting day and we went upstairs to our rooms for some well deserved sleep. 12 Feb 2011 Saturday As we have a mosque 50 yards from our lovely balconies, we heard the morning calls to prayer (5:22 6:45 12:32 3:49 6:19 7:37). Times are scheduled so that at all times someone is praying to Allah facing mecca. Met with Abdullah at 10am to start our day of touring. Abdullah introduced to our local guide Ahmet and off we went. First stop, the King’s palace, where the current monarch was circumcised. The 12 sided design on the gates represents the 12 months of the year and the center of the star represents the sun. | The name of the gate is Bable Mansour and it was built for a wedding. We learned that the word ‘habbibi’ means LOVE.
3: On to our first medina! (Medina – second holiest site in Islam where the Prophet Muhammad is buried and the first mosque was built or Med ina- where everyone should be.) The entrance gate is blue on the exterior, which means hope and green on the interior, signifying health and growth. There are 240 mosques in this medina. The word ‘mosque’ means, a gathering place. We walked down many alleys/passageways, making way for the bustling residents to pass by or one of the many beasts of burden (donkeys) laden with lumber, bricks, cloth, you name it, as the streets are too narrow for cars. But not for motorbikes/cycles, of which there are many. | We saw many butcher shops with their merchandise hanging in the open air and saw our first camel head. The owner of the shop that displayed the goat heads would not permit us to take a picture. And lizards hanging, for sale, yum yum. There were shops for any and everything but the shops were specific; shoes, meat, furniture, leather, etc. | We entered the oldest university in the world, Quaraouine University, which had a mosque attached. The lights on the pole at the top of the mosque are for the deaf to know the time for the call to prayer.
4: Mihrab - Niche in a mosque, indicating the direction to Mecca in which a Muslim shall perform his prayers. The mihrab is where the person leading the congregation in prayer stands. A mosque will normally have only one mihrab. Minaret - Tower near to, or built into, the structures of a mosque which is used by the muezzin to sing out the call to prayer. Minbar - Pulpit in a mosque. The minbar is used by the Iman giving the Friday sermon.. | 5 Pillars of Islam SHAHADAH - Declaration of Faith This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah. The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through the teachings and practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad. SALEH – Prayer Saleh is the name for the obligatory prayers that are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. ZAKAH – Alms An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakah means purification. Possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need and for the society in general. SAWM – Fasting Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown--abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses. HAJJ – Pilgrimage The pilgrimage to Mecca is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. Over two million people go to Mecca each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. | No westerners allowed!
5: CALL TO PRAYER TIMES At dawn before sunrise Just after the height of midday, when the sun begins to set During the afternoon when the shadows have lengthened (between noon and sunset) Just after sunset During the hours of darkness There is a proper way to wash before prayer. These are ritualistic washings which symbolize purification. Wash hands up to the wrist 3 times Rinse mouth out 3 times Sniff water into the nostrils and blow it out 3 times Wash the entire face 3 times Wipe off the top of head one time Wash your ears Wash the back of your neck one time
6: We then entered a huge Riad, currently being used as an art school, and passed through many rooms. The very thick walls made the temperature quite cool. We took pictures in the garden. Back onto the street .. we peeked into a nursery school (K took video) and went into a bakery. People in the medina prepare their own bread but take it to the bakery to bake. Our guide had his yellow shoes mended
7: The carpet (not rug!) collective where we observed women at their craft.We learned about the double knot design which creates a two sided carpet; the plush side for winter and when it is turned over to the smooth side for summer, as it is walked on the dust on the winter side falls out. Very clever. The women are the carpet artists. But men do the prep work on the carpet loom – preparing the warp threads, which they do in a long stretch of the alley way where there are metal rods imbedded into the wall to accommodate this. B purchased a carpet and it was delivered to the hotel. Our guide took us to a weaving studio where the family that owns it (for generations) creates fabric to be used as scarves, tablecloths, etc. We saw a weaving demonstration and purchased scarves. We saw women in the medina shopping but never a woman shop keeper. | Down through a hidden alley and door for a fabulous lunch! Warm towels with rosewater to wash up.
8: Back in the medina we learned that Ahmet's daughter was getting married. He described wedding customs. (Groom generally 10 years older than the bride. ) We saw the wedding feast chair and cicumcision beds. We also purchased djellabas and a cape for our chilly trip out to the desert overnight. | Salam, Marhaban (Hi Welcome)! You are worth 10,000 dromedaries.... You could be my 4th wife.... | Usually a man will have only one wife, but can have up to four. However, he must be able to financially provide for them. The marriage ceremony is often conducted by the Imam. The celebration can last several days. Marriage and other ceremonies can include the firing of weapons into the air. Typically a marriage contract is signed prior to the ceremony. The contract covers what both the bride and groom will contribute to the marriage and possible division of property in case of divorce. | The husband is expected to provide the house they will live in. Ahmet made sure that his daughter will get an apartment and not have to live with her in-laws. He is also expected to provide the food and clothes to support his wife and future family.
9: Back to the hotel by 4pm for a trip to the spa. Ahhhhh. E had a facial and B and K had massages. Then, a bit of a rest and get ready for dinner “with a Moroccan family”. Abdullah picked us up and drove us to his sister’s home. | Her name was Adeshia and she was a lovely hostess. Abdullah’s children were there as well. His daughter, Oumoima, is ten and his son, Youssef, is 2 . Adeshia (who didn’t speak English) served us vegetables, chicken, bread, cake, cookies and mint tea. Oumoima told us about her school and she speaks English really well, though she had to break into Arabic to ask her father how to say certain things in English. She also speaks French, as in the Moroccan system they first learn Arabic, then French, then their choice of Spanish, English or German. She loves Hannah Montana. Youssef loves Sponge Bob. How nice... Youssef fell asleep in the car on the ride home. "Tosbeho al 'ala khair" (Good night) | Moroccan hand gestures “It’s my Obligation” - The gesture of placing the right hand or its forefinger on the tip of the nose, on the right lower eyelid, on top of the head, on the mustache or beard has the meaning of "it’s in front of me, I see it or it’s on my head to accomplish." ”Come Here” -Right hand out, palm down, with fingers brought toward oneself repeatedly in a clawing motion, is the sign for calling someone to come. ”I’m thinking” - Grasping the chin with the thumb side of the right fist is a sign of wisdom or maturity. “ | Slow down” - By holding the fingers in a pear shaped configuration with the tips pointing up at about waist level and moving the hand slightly up and down signals "wait a little bit" or "be careful. " This gesture can be observed extensively when driving in the crowded streets, it may be accompanied by curses from an anxious taxi driver or a pedestrian trying to cross the street | .”Thank You” - Placing the palm of the right hand on the chest, bowing the head a little and closing one’s eyes connotates "Thank You" (in the nameof Allah).“
10: 13 Feb 2011 Sunday At breakfast at the hotel, who do we see but Gail and Scott Cannold. What A small world. They were pretty much on the same loop as we were but they began in Spain and took the ferry over to Tangier and were making their way south. We checked out of the hotel and prepared for our drive to the desert. We crossed the middle and high Atlas ranges and passed through many towns. Drove through an area (Emouzal) where many Fez citizens own apartments as it much cooler in the summer. Stopped at a lovely lake to stretch our legs and Abdullah explained that it was a vacation spot for people from the city. The sign at the lake read “Ifrane-Moyen, Atlas”. Driving, driving, driving . And entered what Abdullah referred to as, “now Berber area”. Stopped in Ifraine (Arabic for ‘wings’) for the WC. Lovely, quite cool, ski area. Saw the American University and took a picture of the stone lion. Abdullah claims the area, “looks like Switzerland” and it did a bit (the mountains especially) but this town had peaked, tiles roofs while everywhere else in the country features houses and buildings with flat roofs. We also saw our first stork nests on roofs. FYI we are currently in the Arabic year 1482 | Whoop de doo in 1492!
11: At 11:45 we stopped by the side of the road and fed the apes!!!!! They are Barbary apes, the only nonhuman primates to live in Europe, (Gibraltar). They are actually macaque monkeys and their conservation status is Vulnerable. When we went to look for them at the traditional stop they were hiding in the trees because kids had been throwing snowballs at them. We drove a little farther down the road and they came out of the trees to eat leftover potato chips out of our hands. How cool!
12: Driving, driving, through mountains with snow and then on to flatland and very dry then big hills and even drier. 4:20 arrived to Errachebia – big city with an army base. Pink buildings, not white, to reduce the glare. Abdullah told us that south of Errachebia the Berber’s wear blue while the Muslims wear black and that we are entering a more traditional, more primitive (his word) area of the country. | On the road again... la la la | God King and Country!
13: We finally entered Merzouga as the sun was getting close to dipping below the horizon. We moved our belongings to a 4 wheel drive vehicle (with a driver) and dashed across the desert to try to get to our bivouac 20kms away before the sunset. We didn’t quite make it but we were greeted by the manager of the bivouac and his camels, which we immediately mounted and headed into the sunset. There were three camels and they were all tied together; K was on the first, E on the middle beast and B took up the rear with the camel driver at the lead. About 10 minutes into the walk B’s camel dumped her over his right shoulder and she rather abruptly hit the (very hard) sand. She chose to walk (limp) back to home base while E prayed that her camel would behave. | Another one bites the dust....
14: Bad camel is on the right looking away from the camera....
15: After a quick good night to the camels we entered our tent area. It was a large rectangle of tents, maybe 20 tents in all, 10 running down each side with the short end of the rectangle serving as the eating area. It was entirely covered by carpets(except for the fire pit) so we never stepped on sand. | We had visited a big grocery store earlier (Marjean) and purchased some mixers and some juice so we broke out the tequila and had dinner – chicken tangine for K and vege tangine for E and B. Abdullah even joined us! By 9pm we were in our tent and snuggled under our many blankets. | We were the only people there so we got the undivided attention of the staff of about 5 men from the Tuareg tribe. They entertained us with music and song as we dined! | Following the ancient Bedouin trails we arrive at the Bivouac at Lahmada
16: There are several tribes in the Sahara. The Berber tribes have lived in Africa since the earliest recorded time (3000 BC) The Tuareg are Berber-speaking nomadic people in the Sahara. They are both pastoralists and traders move from north to south and east to west, following the well-established routes. Touching noses together three times when greeting is a Bedouin gesture of friendship and respect Abdullah also mentions the nomads and Arabs | tell that to your tribe...
17: 14 Feb 2011 Monday (Valentine’s Day) Up at 6am with a quick cup of tea/coffee noir and back on the camels. B was brave and courageous, she got back on and happily remained there. Rode out into the desert trudged higher and higher on the shifting sands and saw a most incredible sun rise. Our leader had us dismount and appreciate the wonders of the colors of the sun for a while, we saw some other tourists in the distance, got back on the camels and returned to the bivouac for breakfast. | We get knocked down but we get up again...
18: . | We three Queens from Westchester are... | hoping not to fall after traveling so far...
19: Leaving the desert we continued on to the “Place of Relaxation and Interesting Water System” We saw the ancient series of wells the desert people have used and still use in order to save and capture water in the Sahara. We were entertained with some local tunes and Emily was able to purchase a lovely scarf!
20: We left the desert to drive on towards Oarzazate. Stopped in Tinghir where we visited the 16th century kasbah and then moved on for a market tour in Lassrane. Stopped by the factory where they polish the sea fossils found in the Sahara Desert, ammonite,trilobites and starfish 350 million years old. | Rock the kasbah...
21: Passing the occasional oasis and sandstone fortresses we stop for lunch at the Todra Gorge. Surrounded by cliffs 300 meters high. We nibble near a couple of bilayers and Em lets us know that she herself is CERTIFIED! | Finally we arrive at the BEAUTIFUL Berber Palace and a champagne and roses treat from a FABULOUS Valentine husband! (Or could it be Ryan, Colin and Hugh?)
22: Gorgeous suites! We get dressed up and go out for dine. This area of Moroc is a hub for movie making. Lawrence of Arabia and other desert movies were filmed here and the hotel has many faux sphinxes and statuary that had been used as props in movies. Lots of photo options in this rather Hollywood themed hotel. The restaurant is all decorated with roses for Valentines Day! As we are seated for dinner, who walks in but Emily's friend Eric from Duke! He is working with National Geographic and shooting a series on Mysteries of the Bible. He joins us for dinner and a little photo shoot of our own. Em gets to meet the crew.
23: K and B audition for the part of the evil stepmother, but alas, our schedule does not permit an additional 3 day stay...
24: A stop by the studio and we are off on an adventure through the high Atlas Mountains on to Marrakech. | Do you know we're riding on the..... | BEST of the VESTAL VIRGINS! | BEST of the VESTAL VIRGINS! | BEST of the VESTAL VIRGINS!
25: If a picture paints a thousand words...
26: Hey hey, good lookin' What you got cookin?
27: We then checked into the luxurious Jolie Sofitel –so many roses and scent of roses in lobby – we were seated and served tea as they processed our reservations. Our rooms were beautiful and immediately next to each other. Rooms 345 (B) and 346 (K and E). (The fountain outside had flames in the middle!) The second entrance to the hotel had a mini Grand Prix race track for the kids. there were two pools outside, one a lovely heated beauty that Emily took advantage of. | Harry's Bar | Though our hotel was LOVELY, B&K did go over for a drink to check out the famous La Mamounia! The place was amazing with truly beautiful gardens!
28: 16 Feb 2011 Wednesday The Prophet’s birthday Most excellent breakfast. K loved the fruit cup. Lots and lots of choices at the buffet. Met Abdullah at about 10am and he drove us around the city. Went to the Jardin Majorelle, a public garden that Yves Saint Laurent acquired and restored and set up a foundation “to ensure its continuing existence”. It’s a small garden and as we were there in the late winter/very early spring, there were no flowing plants. We drove past the medina and headed out of town to the “the valley”. We stopped along the highway at a gallery where K purchased a painting and B bought 3 rings and 2 earrings. | We continued into the truly beautiful hills to the area called Ourika. We went to a botanical establishment where we were given a tour of the herbs (again, as it was late winter and very cool, the poor plants were not looking their best) and then a tutorial regarding the products made from the plants, which included creams, salves, cooking spices and cosmetics. We purchased soap, scents (amber), eye liner, lipstick, spices. Returned to Marrakech at about 3pm and Abdullah took us to a great outdoor restaurant (Rotisserie de la Paix) where we each had pizza and dined with the quail and peahens that were free to roam. K and E shared sangria and B had a CasaBlanca beer
29: At supper time, wanted to find a restaurant we had read about in our guide book, Portofino, so set out on foot. We were walking on the sidewalk in the direction we thought Portofino to be and a young man greeted us, said he worked at the hotel and wondered if we needed directions. (Note: his name was Abdullah and he told us he had 18 month old twin girls that he was on the way home to see). We gratefully, if at first hesitantly, accepted his help and as we walked along he insisted he knew a great restaurant that overlooked the square and served wine. We explained that we wanted to find Portofino but he was pretty insistent so we followed him and ended up on the top floor of a fairly seedy hotel where he left us. B, the knucklehead, gave him a 200dh as that’s the smallest bill she had, and K, not knowing that B had already tipped him, have him a 50. We got a very tattered and limited menu and decided we didn’t want to dine there. We left and found him standing outside the door and quickly separated from him. K’s excellent scouting skills got us to Portofino (whew) and she had lasagna, E had pizza and B had a nicoise salad. Big screen TV with a football match between the Arsenal and Barcelona (Arsenal won). Due to K’s incredible sense of direction, the hotel was located. | 17 Feb 2011 Thursday day 2 of the Birthday celebration A delicious breakfast and 10am meet time with Abdullah. He drove us to a mosque Saadien tombs and Bahia Palace. where we met our guide for the day, Larbi. He talked A LOT (!) After the mosque we went on a tour of a riad. Larbi told us many things but one of the most interesting is that his mother was a fourth wife and he was her only child. After the riad, we walked through the souk and it was fantastic. So many things to see. Opened into a small square where there were lots of spice vendors and where E bought two camels and we all got henna. (50dh each). As we were walking away, carefully protecting our henna’d hands until they dried, a motorbike came by and rubbed B’s. Major smear. Back to henna woman and she corrected as best she could. Walked through El Fna and back to Abdullah’s car. Gave the guide 300dh for tip. Had lunch at a roadside spot (no tourists) and back. Stopped at Marjane and in honor of the prophet’s birthday, no Arab person was permitted into the liquor area. We with our white skin breezed right in and got Abdulah his beer. When we were in the check out line, a man approached K and (if the translation is correct) wanted her to buy liquor for him. Either that or he was proposing to her. | Marjane = Target | $ to Dh 100 -800 50 -400 25-200 12.50-100 6.25-50 2.50-20 1.25-10
30: Dinner at Chez Ali or... Arabian Medieval Times. We were dressed beautifully for the big event so EVERYONE wanted their pictures taken with us. (Of course we did NOT get a picture of the Berber midget who said he would take Emily!) It was very Disneyesque; a recreated medina, tents, square. Dinner consisted of veges and chicken (for K) and couscous, fruit and a cookie . Many, many dancers (women) and musicians (men) came through the dining tents, did a short performance with audience participation, and then had their hands out. There were about ten different troups, with many types of costumes. After dinner, the big event in the large sand area in the middle of the complex. Very loud piped in Arabian music over speakers. Men on horses, 1 camel a bellydancer. We were among the first to leave, before the show was over. We asked Abdullah how many times he had seen the show and he said, “like 500!!!"
31: Off to the coast to Essaouira. We stopped along the way and saw argon trees and goats and visited the Argon Femmes Cooperative where we had a tour. E paticipated in the demonstration AND was excellent at negotiating prices. We purchased argon cream, argon oil, etc. In the car to Essouria and at about 3 we arrived. Had lunch (pizza and beer) seaside. The waves are beautiful and the winds are high. Lots of Kite surfers. Abdulah got us to the riad (after a brief scuffle with one of the luggage delivery men who wanted our business but Abdulah didn’t know him and therefore wouldn’t trust him to touch our things.) Then out for a glorious walk; we found the seaside and a rampart (with cannons!!) and watched the sun set over the Atlantic!!!! How cool is that????
32: Riad (Riad Al Madina) is adorable and we are served tea as we filled out our paperwork. Abdulah left us and we headed up to the 3rd floor to our rooms where we acclimated and had a glass of wine. Then we somehow managed to find our way out around the old town and back to the riad. Along the way we stopped at a lovely little shop that sold postcards and books and K found stickers for Mikey’s surfboard. We returned and had dinner, with entertainment – which included a man playing a guitar type instrument and 3 men who played percussion instruments, the men danced while they twirled their hats. Emily was pulled up to participate. | Helicopter hats...
33: Met with Abdulah by 9am and headed to Casablanca. Stopped at a couple of “overlooks” and at one met a nice couple from Minnesota. We stopped in El Jiada for lunch and we were the only foreigners. Special. We took our last pics with Abdullah before we drop Em at the airport and return early the next morning for our flight | Interesting fact; the terminal we were taken to was pre 9/11 the terminal where pilgrims to mecca departed but post 9/11 it became the terminal where all flights to the US and Canada departed.